Adam Carr's guide to
The 2007 Australian federal election

Are 70% of the Labor frontbench former "union bosses?"

(from the Liberal Party website)

Coalition advertising has repeatedly claimed that "70% of the Labor frontbench are former union bosses." This claim has been uncritically repeated by some journalists. But an investigation of the occupational background of the 30 members of the Labor front bench shows it to be incorrect. Only 23% of the front bench have held positions in trade unions senior enough to merit the use of the word "boss" (a person in authority). Another 37% have held junior positions or been union employees - in some cases only briefly and/or many years ago. Fully 40% of the Labor front bench have never held union office or worked for a union. This 40% includes Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Steven Smith, Peter Garrett and Robert McClelland. The claim that Gillard was a "union boss" (see graphic above, where she is coloured red) seems to be based solely on the fact that she appeared for unions in her capacity as a lawyer.

The Labor front bench: occupational backgrounds

Former senior union officials (state secretary etc) (7 or 23%)

  • Senator Chris Evans (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, National Development, Resources and Energy): Industrial officer, Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union, WA State Secretary, Fire Brigade Union, ALP State Secretary.
  • Arch Bevis (Homeland Security, Territories, Justice and Customs): Teacher, organiser and then Deputy General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union.
  • Simon Crean (Trade, Regional Development): Assistant General Secretary, then General Secretary , Federated Storemen and Packers Union, President of the ACTU 1985-90.
  • Martin Ferguson (Transport, Roads and Tourism): Research officer, Assistant General Secretary, General Secretary, Miscellaneous Workers' Union. President of the ACTU 1990-96.
  • Senator Kerry O'Brien (Primary Industries, Fisheries and Forestry): Research officer and elected official, Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union, Tasmanian Branch Secretary of the Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union.
  • Senator Nick Sherry (Superannuation and Intergenerational Finance): Tas State Secretary, Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Union.
  • Lindsay Tanner (Finance): Assistant Secretary, then State Secretary, Federated Clerks' Union.

    Former union low-level officials (6 or 20%)

  • Chris Bowen (Revenue and Competition Policy): Research and media officer to state MP, advisor to NSW minister, Industrial officer, Finance Sector Union.
  • Tony Burke (Immigration, Integration and Citizenship): Electorate officer, campaign manager Australian Republican Movement, organiser Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, NSW state MP.
  • Alan Griffin (Veterans' Affairs, Defence Science and Personnel, Special Minister of State): Public servant, organiser, Federated Clerks' Union, electorate secretary, ministerial adviser.
  • Senator Joseph Ludwig (Shadow Attorney-General): Barrister, industrial advocate Australian Workers' Union.
  • Nicola Roxon (Health): Lawyer. Organiser National Union of Workers.
  • Senator Kate Lundy (Local Government, Sport, Recreation and Health Promotion): Organiser, ACT Vice-President, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

    Former union employees (5 or 17%)

  • Senator Kim Carr (Industry, Innovation, Science and Research): Teacher, ministerial adviser and policy analyst. Briefly employed by the Meatworkers Union.
  • Senator Stephen Conroy (Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Communications and Information Technology): Research assistant, superannuation officer, Transport Workers' Union.
  • Laurie Ferguson (Multicultural Affairs): Research Officer, Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union, NSW state MP.
  • Bob McMullan (Federal-State Relations): Party official. Was industrial advocate for unions in the 1970s.
  • Senator Penny Wong (Public Administration and Accountability: Barrister, policy adviser. Worked part-time for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union while a student.

    None of the above (12 or 40%)

  • Kevin Rudd (Leader of the Opposition): Diplomat, Chief of Staff to Premier of Qld, Director-General Qld Cabinet Office, Senior China Consultant, KPMG Australia.
  • Julia Gillard (Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Employment and Industrial Relations): Lawyer, chief of staff to Victorian Opposition Leader.
  • Anthony Albanese (Water and Infrastructure): Bank officer, research officer to the federal minister, senior policy adviser to NSW Premier, Assistant General Secretary NSW ALP.
  • Dr Craig Emerson (Service Economy, Small Business and Independent Contractors): Economic analyst, United Nations, economic adviser to federal ministers including Bob Hawke, assistant secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Director-General, Qld Department of Environment, CEO South East Queensland Transit Authority.
  • Joel Fitzgibbon (Defence): Electrician, small business operator, electorate officer.
  • Peter Garrett (Climate Change, Environment and Heritage, Arts: Musician.
  • Jenny Macklin (Families and Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation): Economics researcher, Adviser to Vic state minister, public servant.
  • Robert McClelland (Foreign Affairs): Lawyer.
  • Senator Jan McLucas (Ageing, Disabilities and Carers): Teacher, electorate officer.
  • Tanya Plibersek (Human Services, Housing, Youth and Women): Public servant and electorate officer.
  • Stephen Smith (Education and Training): Solicitor, lecturer and tutor, ministerial advisor, party official.
  • Wayne Swan (Shadow Treasurer): Lecturer, policy analyst, ministerial adviser, party official.

    Sources: Parliament of Australia website, Wikipedia.

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